AVSIM Commercial FSX Scenery Review

San Francisco
International Airport

Product Information

Publishers: FlightBeam

Description: Scenery add-on.

Download Size:
61 MB

Simulation Type:
Reviewed by: Aidan Sandri AVSIM Staff Reviewer - April 16, 2011


San Francisco Airport, located on the west coast of the USA is a major international airport and is located 13miles/21km from downtown San Francisco. The airport’s ICAO identifier is KSFO and has flights to destinations throughout North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

San Francisco Intl is the 2nd busiest airport in California, Los Angeles Intl being the busiest, and in 2009 it was the 10th busiest in the United States. The airport is a major hub for Continental/United and Virgin America. The airport is 13 feet/4 meters elevated ASL.

FlightBeam Studios KSFO is their first release; will it live up to what I expect? We will find out at the end of the review, but this is what is included in this version of KSFO:

  • High Grade 3ds Max Models
  • Photoreal ground mesh with high res taxiways
  • Built-in shadows with no frame rate loss
  • Moving trams and custom animations
  • Optimized for higher frame rates
  • Animated hold short lights
  • Reflective windows
  • Static aircrafts with realistic shadows
  • Detailed Cargo areas


Test System

i5 750 @ 3.5Ghz
Nvidia 9800GT 1Gb
8Gb DDR3 Ram
Windows 7 64

Flying Time:
179 hours

As with other releases, the installer is freely available from the FlightBeam website and anyone can install it in trial mode making it fully functional for about 5 minutes before all of the terminal buildings disappear leaving you with nothing but gates. The KSFO download file is approximately 60MB. FlightBeam KSFO uses a simple self installer that relies on an internet connection as additional components are downloaded as required.

The install itself only took a few minutes and once installed, a FlightBeam folder will sit in the main FSX menu. I then booted up FSX, pressed the ALT button and selected the add-on manager, which allows you to buy or activate the scenery (I selected to activate it), once you have activated it with the serial code, the scenery will be yours to explore for an unlimited time!

First Impressions:

As with most of my scenery reviews, I like to do a quick overlook of the entire airport using a nice slow aircraft or a helicopter, in this case I will use the FSX default Ultralight. When the scenery first loaded, I was amazed to see the detail that had gone into the ground textures on RWY 28R. I was able to clearly see all the tyre marks from where previous planes had landed and all the runway markings.

Shortly after taking off, I did a slight left turn to fly over the terminals and even at 300 feet; you can still see all the little details such as the taxiway markings, signs and the jetways at the terminal.

When I did get closer to the terminal, I was able to see a monorail travelling around the car park (in the middle of the terminal) and then to my surprise, I saw something I did not expect to see as this is mainly based at Orbx Airports - static United B747-400s parked at gates! Though they were not as detailed as the PMDG 747, they were a nice little feature added giving that extra bit of 'life' into this virtual airport. Continuing my first look over the airport, I was able to still view those minor little things you would expect, such as the windsock.

When heading to the west side of the airport (or just keep rolling down RWY28), there were hangars belonging to United Airliners, the Coast Guard, and FedEx Buildings. All of these were nice features that do not hurt to be seen, and add to the realism I'm sure all simmers want!

A more detailed view:

When I first loaded up my US Airways Airbus A320, I was impressed to see a very nice looking terminal with reflective glass. In the virtual cockpit, you’re able to see the pushback truck, traffic cones and the jetway which are a part of the scenery. Unfortunately, I was unable to move the jetway with the standard keyboard shortcut 'Shift+J.'

As of the 9th of April 2011, there is no AES support meaning you cannot get the jetways to move with or without AES - although in my opinion, they should move without AES as that is a feature you expect, right?

So we have now pushed back, and we are taxiing to RWY 28L. The runway markings are still very clear and do not require you to use the progressive taxiway markings as you should be able to taxi using visual references. You will be able to notice the nice cracks in the taxiways which look realistic as you would expect.

So we are now lined up on RWY 28L, and as with the taxiways, everything is crisp and clear to read. We roll down the runway and wave goodbye to the beautiful airport with looks so real in my virtual world, that it makes me want to go to California just to look at the airport!


The airport is easy to find when flying in the area so you will have no difficulty finding it!

Night Lighting:

The night lighting at KSFO is perfect, you can clearly tell that it has been photoshopped and added into the sim to give it that extra look of brilliance. I for one do not fly a lot at night due to the way FSX handles the lighting, but I can definitely say I would if the lighting that was placed around this airport, was placed all over the world.

The way that developers (including FlightBeam) are recreating the lighting is brilliant, and I’m sure I will fly into this airport a few times at night.


Whilst reviewing the airport, FPS were not an issue. On a clear sunny day, or even a rainy day at KSFO in the Aerosoft Airbus X, I was able to maintain 30FPS in the VC and 40+ FPS in the exterior mode, while being either still or moving around the airport. With the PMDG JS41, I was able to get 20FPS, but that is a detailed aircraft and the FPS hit I believe was related to the aircraft and not the actual airport itself.

I had no issues whatsoever with the performance at this airport, and it is one of the friendliest airports I have ever seen.

Final Comments:

San Francisco International Airport was FlightBeam's first airport released. They entered a North American market which is saturated with other airports to fly in and out of, but not many have attempted to recreate KSFO (with the exception of the FS9 FlyTampa KSFO). I can clearly say this airport does not hold back any previous versions of KFSO already available on the market, but instead places more competition to the other two main developers who produce scenery for North America.

For a first time release, what is wrong with the airport? Well, nothing really - only the jetways which do not move right now - but that is only while you are at the gate, and those who are programming their FMS would not really care about a gate touching the door or not, right?

Priced at $33USD - this is a fantastic price to enter the market, as it is on par with what other developers price their international airports at.

Well done to FlightBeam, and I cannot wait to see what you guys do to KPHX - Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Arizona. Which is only a short hop from KSFO.


What I Like About KFSO

  • Those minor details you would expect to be there are there.
  • Reflective Glass on the terminal windows.
  • Zero FPS hit.
  • Night Lighting.


What I Don't Like About KFSO

  • Jetways do not move - no AES support yet either, so there is no way to get the jetways to move.



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